Red tape threat to SnOasis

THE man behind the �300m plans for the SnOasis winter sports complex in Suffolk warned last night that further bureaucratic hold-ups might force him to abandon the project - although he insisted that is “the last thing'' he wants to do.

Elliot Furniss

THE man behind the �300m plans for the SnOasis winter sports complex in Suffolk warned last night that further bureaucratic hold-ups might force him to abandon the project - although he insisted that is “the last thing'' he wants to do.

Godfrey Spanner, managing director of developer Onslow Suffolk, has been frustrated by a series of setbacks to the scheme, which he says would create 3,500 jobs.

He told yesterday of his frustration at ongoing delays, which have seen him plough �20m into the ambitious development over nine years but still without the final go-ahead for work to start.

The controversial project, which would be built at Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, was given the green light last November subject to a number of conditions.

One of these was that work could not begin until full approval had been granted on all aspects of the development.

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Mr Spanner feared this would cause a delay of another two years and cost an extra �18m and has been lobbying the Government to try and resolve the issue - even writing to PM Gordon Brown.

However he has so far been unsuccessful and is now hoping a change in planning regulations, which could come into force in October, will enable the project to start taking shape as soon as possible.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is looking at introducing Local Development Orders (LDOs) that will have the power to waive conditions to kick start stalled schemes.

A decision will be made next month and Mr Spanner is hoping they get the green light - otherwise he could be forced to abandon the plans.

“It's been one setback after another,” he said. “Having gone through the public inquiry and got the result that we wanted and to not be able to get on with it is quite ridiculous.

“It's a ludicrous position. No one in authority is recognising what this can offer. It will generate 3,500 construction jobs and the knock on effect of that, using local labour - is huge. When the builders have gone there will be 2,000 permanent jobs here.

“There are so many politicos that I have had the opportunity to speak to and it's unbelievable that between them or separately they can do nothing.

“We got this consent last November - it's now nearly a year on. We have spent nearly �20m and have nothing to show from it.

“There are people saying that SnOasis is never going to happen but it will. The credit crunch and economic climate is not helping but as soon as we can get over all clearance building work will start straight away.”

Construction of more than 400 homes, which have also been earmarked for the site, will start next month but Mr Spanner warned that if the LDOs are not introduced then he may be forced to rethink his plans for the winter leisure complex.

This could include a further application to waive the conditions, which would cost more money and time.

“It's a route I don't really want to take because it will lengthen things and give people another opportunity to try and frustrate matters,” Mr Spanner said. “Otherwise I will have to do something else with the land. It will probably be waste orientated which I think people would like even less than SnOasis.

“That's the bottom line. Go through a long costly planning exercise again or change the use, which is the last thing that I want to do.”

LAST night opponents of the SnOasis development said they still had their doubts over the project's future.

Keith Willetts, chairman of SnOasis Concern, a group campaigning against the development, said he did not believe the winter sports complex would ever be built.

He said: “The last I heard was that Mr Spanner was trying to get the decision of the Secretary of State changed so he could go ahead with some of the housing aspects of the project.

“I just don't think it will ever be built. The land will be sold on and someone will go back to Mid Suffolk with a different proposal.

“That's my speculation of the most likely course. He (Mr Spanner) is probably the most optimistic guy on the planet.

“We're looking at many years before we see something there - and I don't think it will be SnOasis.”

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